Chicken without the blood and guts or CO2

According to Abigail Klein Leichman, associate editor at ISRAEL21c, an Israeli foundation is first in the world to research mass production of cultured chicken breast, a real meat product starting from a single cell of a real bird.

Israel’s Modern Agriculture Foundation (MAF) has joined the quest to mass-produce cultured meat, launching the only such project to concentrate on chicken — the second most popular meat on the planet next to pork. Every day, 23 million chickens are killed for food in the United States alone, wrote Leichman.

“We are a group of caring individuals who came to the conclusion that what the world needs urgently, in terms of helping both the environment and animals, is for everybody to go vegan,” says MAF cofounder Shir Friedman, “but that’s not realistic. So when we heard about the idea of cultured meat, we realized this is a way to reduce harm to animals and the environment while giving people the meat they want to eat.”

The all-volunteer nonprofit organisation was founded in March last year, and by January launched the world’s first feasibility study to determine the cost, timetable and resources to create commercial cultured chicken breast.

That privately funded study, headed by Prof. Amit Gefen at Tel Aviv University, is to be completed by January 2016.

“We are targeting the development of a tissue-engineered chicken breast, which is a popular choice for a main course in many cultures and countries, to test feasibility of the concept and, in particular, to identify gaps in knowledge and challenges on the route to commercial production,” said Gefen, who hopes to develop a meat free of animal tissues or byproducts.

“Researchers and entrepreneurs who will take part in our project will help redesign the food industry and move it forward into a cleaner, healthier and environmentally friendly world,” she says. “Our main goal is to hasten the day when cultured meat is sold in stores. The sooner this day comes, the less damage our planet will suffer.”

Leichman wrote that cultured meat production requires between seven and 45 per cent less energy, 90 per cent less fresh water and 99 per cent less land, and would result in 80 to 90 per cent less greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere.

“If 2.5 billion people join us in eating only cultured meat by 2050, we get all those resources back. It’s truly a magic solution,” Friedman told ISRAEL21c.

One of the MAF’s biggest challenges is to convince people that cultured meat is not “Frankenfood” and involves no genetic engineering. It is not a meat substitute, but 100 per cent meat. When produced on a mass scale, cultured meat won’t be made in a lab but in a factory just like any other processed food from ketchup to cornflakes.

Cultured meat production begins by incubating stem cells in a nutrient-rich medium that helps the cells grow and divide. Scaffolds and other technological aids help the cells form a thin layer of muscle tissue, a.k.a. meat.

“We are simply letting biology do its thing, letting cells create the muscle tissue they know how to create. The meat will be identical in taste and flavor and ingredients to meat from an animal — if anything, healthier because we can control the amount of cholesterol and fat,” says Friedman. “It will be a very sustainable way to feed the planet.”

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